Saturday, October 13, 2007

Caribbean: Musicians on St. Martin, 2002

In 2002 I traveled to the island of St. Martin, which is shared by the French and Dutch. My goal was to look for people who were involved in music and dance traditions. One person I was fortunate to meet was Carlson Velasquez, who has spent nearly all of his life there; he was born in Aruba but was taken to St. Martin by his family when he was six months old.

Carlson is one of a generation who learned the guitar and its Cuban cousin, the tres, from other island musicians. Their repertoire includes music from the Caribbean islands, including the Spanish-speaking ones, as well as old-time American country music and religious songs. The style of music reminds people of Cuban musicians such as Compay Segundo and others from the Buena Vista Social Club. The photo shows Carlson with his resonator guitar.

Carlson also makes a bass instrument called the marimba, not the same as the marimba from Guatemala and other Central American countries. The Caribbean-style marimba comes from a smaller African instrument called the kalimba, which consists of a number of metal tongs attached to a resonator box. This instrument is still used in folk bands in different parts of the Caribbean.

See my webpage on the Caribbean at

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